A Guide for Dog Owners on Snake Bites

Posted on: 29 May 2015

During the summer months when snakes are most active it's not uncommon for dogs to come into contact with them, especially if you exercise your pet in a local park or in an area near a body of water.

There are a number of species of highly venomous snakes in Australia but the usual culprits for biting dogs are brown snakes and tiger snakes.

How to tell if your dog has been bitten

Dogs are usually bitten around the head or limbs. This is because dogs are curious and will sniff and paw at the snake as they investigate and try to work out what the strange creature is. 

Snakes don't hunt dogs; they only react by biting if they are cornered and feel threatened. A snake will usually beat a hasty retreat if it can without harming you or your inquisitive pet.

Your pet's reaction to a bite will depend on a number of factors.

  • the type of snake (some are more poisonous than others)
  • the quantity of venom injected
  • where your dog was bitten

Other contributing factors include the time of year and the length of time since the snake's last strike. The venom glands tend to be fuller when the snake first emerges from hibernation at the beginning of the summer, and if it has not successfully hunted for a few days.

Signs to look out for include:

  • vomiting
  • sudden weakness and simultaneous collapse
  • trembling or twitching
  • pupils fixed and dilated
  • paralysis
  • blood present in the urine

First aid

If you think your pet may have been bitten by a venomous snake, immobilise him immediately and keep him quiet. The venom is transported around the snake's victim in its bloodstream so the more active your pet is, the faster his heart will pump, and the quicker the venom will be distributed to his vital organs.

Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The majority of dogs are treated successfully and make a full recovery if they are seen quickly. Phone your vet immediately to let them know the nature of your emergency so that they can be ready for your pet's arrival.

Once it has struck, the snake will usually make good its escape to safety, but if it's still in your garden, don't approach it or try to catch it. You risk being bitten yourself! Tempting though it may be, don't kill the snake. All species of snakes in Australia are protected by law and it's an offence to kill one.

Accident prevention advice

If you exercise your dog in bushland areas or in sand dunes during the summertime, always keep him on a lead especially near water where snakes are likely to be.

Snakes seek shade and privacy and will readily set up home under your garden shed, in overgrown areas of long grass or in your firewood pile. If you live in a semi-rural area or have a large garden, keep the grass short and don't allow piles of wood or other garden rubbish to accumulate. 

Snakes usually set up home near a ready water source which may also contain food sources for them such as frogs. If you have a pond in your garden, clear away any dense growth of vegetation nearby where snakes could hide.

If you spot a snake in your garden, contact your local pest management company for advice and assistance. Local hospitals also have a list of independent volunteers who provide a snake-catching and relocating service.

Many Australian residents and their pets never encounter a snake, but it's always best to know what to do should your pet be bitten. For more advice on keeping your garden a safe snake-free zone for your pets and children, ask your local pest control company for advice.